02 March 2024

Labour announces plan for all police to have violence against women training

02 March 2024

Labour has said it will introduce compulsory violence against women and girls training for every police officer in the aftermath of inquiry findings into Sarah Everard’s killer Wayne Couzens.

The Opposition party is also promising an overhaul of vetting procedures to bar anyone with a history of domestic abuse or sexual offending from joining the police, while ensuring rogue officers are rooted out of forces.

Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, said there is an “urgent need” for “wholesale changes” to restore public confidence in policing following a number of high-profile scandals.

Labour said former chief constable Olivia Pinkney, who was in charge of Hampshire Constabulary for seven years and led policing’s senior leadership development programme, will act as an adviser to the party as it develops its strategy.

A report published this week by Lady Elish Angiolini into former police officer Couzens found he should never have been given a job as a police officer, and chances to stop the sexual predator were repeatedly ignored and missed.

We need wholesale changes so that people like Couzens are never let in through the door of a police force

The inquiry warned that, without a radical overhaul of policing practices and culture, there is “nothing to stop another Couzens operating in plain sight”, with police accused of “repeatedly failing” to spot warning signs about his “unsuitability for office”.

Branding Couzens a “predatory sex offender and murderer”, the inquiry laid bare a history of alleged sexual offending dating back nearly 20 years before the off-duty armed Metropolitan Police officer abducted Ms Everard in March 2021. He went on to rape and murder her.

Ms Cooper said: “The Angiolini report suggests that rather than being a one-off problem there are fundamental failings in police vetting, recruitment, monitoring and training.

“The vital work that tens of thousands of dedicated officers across the country are doing each day to keep us safe is being undermined by the failure to address standards and restore confidence in policing, and the lack of leadership from the Government.

“We need wholesale changes so that people like Couzens are never let in through the door of a police force.

“In government, Labour would make police reform a priority with a package of measures to instil the very highest standards of vetting, ethics, behaviour and performance in the service.”

Labour said that some police forces already offer courses on issues related to violence against women and girls, but that its reforms would see it become a standard part of police training for every officer.

In addition, forces would be expected to put new leadership training in place to help transform the culture of the service, party officials said.

Ms Cooper says Labour would implement recommendations from the Angiolini report on indecent exposure so that it is treated as a serious crime, with victims taken seriously.

“Sarah Everard’s murder should have been a watershed on policing reform and on the response to violence against women and girls. Too little has changed. Enough is enough. We need urgent action on standards and safety,” she said.

The party is also pledging to introduce a mandatory police vetting requirement to stop discrepancies between the 43 constabularies in recruitment standards.

Applicants with a history of domestic abuse, indecent exposure or sexual assault would be automatically barred.

The package of measures would include introducing tougher powers for the policing watchdog, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Services, to hold chief constables to account if they fail to act on recommendations.

This week, Labour also announced changes that will form part of “Raneem’s Law” to improve the police response to domestic violence.

The proposals are named after Raneem Oudeh, the 22-year-old who, along with her mother, 49-year-old Khaola Saleem, were murdered by Ms Oudeh’s ex-partner in 2018.

Four years later, an inquest into their deaths found mistakes made by West Midlands Police had “materially contributed” to their deaths.

On the night they were killed, Ms Oudeh had called West Midlands Police four times to register concerns for her safety, and the force had previously responded to 10 domestic abuse incidents linked to the case. Five officers were disciplined over the failures.

Labour said it would install specialist rape and sexual assault units in each force, domestic violence call handlers would be put into every 999 control room and a new perpetrator programme would be established to target the 1,000 most dangerous abusers and sex offenders who pose a risk to women.

The Angiolini inquiry is set to continue in two parts.

It will look at the crimes of David Carrick — who also served in the Met’s Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command and was jailed for life last year after being unmasked as a serial rapist — and consider the wider problems within the police in the wake of both cases.

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